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A guide to the best Africa river cruises

Cruise Advice

Africa may not be the first place that comes to mind when you're thinking about a river cruise, but this wonderfully diverse continent offers a couple of very special options.

For wildlife lovers, a cruise along the river Chobe is a fantastic alternative to a traditional safari, while history buffs and budding Egyptologists will doubtless already have a Nile river cruise on their bucket list. Read on for our guide to what to expect and how to get the most out of your Africa river cruise...

The Chobe

Often dubbed Africa's last wilderness, Botswana lies deep within southern Africa, with the Kalahari Desert at its core. The premier stronghold is in the north where the Okavango River comes in from the rainy uplands of Angola. This inland delta has been called the world's largest oasis, and together with the Chobe river it has been a magnet for wildlife since time immemorial.

The 4,200-square-mile Chobe National Park has one of the highest concentrations of big game in Africa. Apart from boasting the largest populace of elephant in the world , this is the realm of lion and leopard, zebra and giraffe, as well as buffalo, waterbuck, eland, sable, roan antelope and rare puku. Forming the border with Namibia, the riverfront of the National Park is the essence of the Chobe - emerald floodplains that are home to great pods of galumphing hippopotamus, with Cambrian crocodiles never far away.

Hippos in Chobe National Park, Botswana

The intoxicating early-morning cacophony of untamed Africa ensures guests wake with the sun. After breakfast there's the chance to explore the unravelling spectacle of the riverbank. From the tender boats the naturalists identify several deceptively languid, glass-eyed crocodiles camouflaged in the muddy undergrowth.

This African river cruise should be combined to make the most of it as part of a longer Africa trip. For example we recommend flying into Cape Town, maybe incorporating a journey on Rovos Rail, a South Africa safari experience in Kruger national park, and the Victoria Falls.

Victoria Falls, Zambia

Our recommended cruise line:


Trip reports:

  • Gary Buchanan reviews Zambezi Queen

The Nile

Extraordinary Egypt should be on everyone's must-do list. Whilst people are naturally concerned about the safety of visiting this most enticing of countries, the Foreign Office gives no advice against travel to Cairo, Alexandria, the tourist areas along the Nile river (including Luxor, Qina, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings) and the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada.

The country's ancient past is still alive in its majestic monuments and relics, most of which can be found on the stretch of the Nile between Luxor and Aswan. The ancient Egyptians were one of the most impressive civilisations, but following their era, this strategically positioned country has been influenced by Arabia, Islam and the Mediterranean to create a veritable cultural mixing pot. In fact the country is home to one third of the world's antiquities.

Feluccas on the river Nile, Egypt

No visit to Egypt is complete without a stay in Cairo. The Pyramids and sphinx are impressive, and the amazing Egyptian Museum should be top of your list. Then fly on to Aswan for a cruise to Luxor or vice versa and an intensive course on 5,000 years of Egyptian history, as you visit ancient tombs and temples.

Wander amongst the towering ruins of the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, following in the footsteps of renowned scholars and explorers as you scramble through the Valley of the Kings, the ancient burial grounds of Egyptian royalty.

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Don't miss:

No Ancient Egyptian exploration is complete without an extra side trip to Abu Simbel to see the extraordinary Nubian monuments on the shores of Lake Nasser.

Our recommended cruise lines:

Uniworld · Sanctuary Retreats

River Cruising Uncovered

Thinking about a river cruise but don't know where to start? Our informative guide is packed full of everything you need to know, including which cruise lines we recommend, what to expect on each river and how to make the most of your trip...

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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